Training ‘got real’ in Saturday exercise

 Meginnis set to retire Monday after 30 years

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com It was so hot, the firetrucks had to be hosed down - and at least one home across Roberdel Road, too. No property was damaged in the training exercise.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
It was so hot, the firetrucks had to be hosed down – and at least one home across Roberdel Road, too. No property was damaged in the training exercise.

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

* Photo gallery – More 1,100 snapshots
* Video – “Man down” – Outside
* Previous coverage: Firefighting ‘a young man’s game’

ROCKINGHAM — The science of firefighting can turn on the most experienced person in the time it takes a heart to beat.

And that’s when the science becomes a bit of an art.

The Rockingham Fire Department’s training exercise at 906 Roberdel Road in Rockingham on Saturday, which consisted of  taking down a two-story home that had been vacant for about a decade, was also one for the history books — at least for the Gardner family.

Rockingham Fire Chief Charles Gardner, whose last day on the job will be Aug. 20 after nearly 31 years with the city, including the last 11 years as chief, had never been inside a burning structure with his firefighting son, David. David Gardner, 31, recently accepted a job transfer and relocated to Burgaw where he remains active with the fire department.

David received special permission from his unit to attend the Rockingham training exercise on Saturday. The plan was for David and his father to enter a burning room and put down the blaze, but the flames caught some air and spread quickly. Nearly as soon as they were in the front room, they went out the back door.

“It got real,” Charles Gardner said, not willing to risk anyone’s safety for any reason.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Younger firefighters didn't enter the structure, but did practice climbing and hooking onto a ladder to break windows.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Younger firefighters didn’t enter the structure, but did practice climbing and hooking onto a ladder to break windows.

For approximately three minutes’ time, firefighters with the Rockingham and Ellerbe departments unrolled hoses and positions firetrucks in a very serious manner befitting a live fire more than a training exercise. Within a few minutes, however, protective lines of water were on three sides of the house and things were under control.

Later, as the last flames petered out, David’s son, Dylan, 8, even handled a hose long after the flurry of activity had died down, long after active firefighters had practiced climbing ladders, hooking onto ladders to break windows and reach the rooftops to ventilate a home to better control a fire. It’s always important to stress to firefighters young and old the importance of staying hydrated.

It was a difficult scene for Robert McInnis to watch. He was among the more than dozen spectators of the fire at the home, built in the late 1930s or early 1940s, McInnis figured. It was, after all, home for a long period of his young life.

“This is where I grew up,” said McInnis, now in his mid-60s, of the 13-acre property with access to Roberdel Pond. “I love this place.”

McInnis reminisced about his ancestors, especially about his great grandfather who played a significant role in his upgringing.

“I didn’t want to go home,” McInnis said when a boy. “This was home.”

“I’ll be crying before it’s all done.”

McInnis recalled walking and riding his bicycle over to nearby Bynum Field to play baseball. The neighborhood has changed over the years, he said. A wider Roberdel Road accommodates a higher volume of traffic. There are more neighbors than there once was.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com It was a home, and the property will accept the Barber family after the rubble is cleared and a new home is built.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
It was a home, and the property will accept the Barber family after the rubble is cleared and a new home is built.

McInnis said the home had been all but abandoned for the past 10 years after his maternal grandmother, who reached the age of 103, went to live with family members due to health issues. Since then, vandals have taken advantage of the vacant property and pilfered everything worth stealing.

“It was too far gone to sink a lot of money in it,” McInnis said. “I told my mother, we better do something.”

That’s when the family line kicked in. McInnis’ niece, Meredith Barber, and her husband Will happened to be looking to build a new home. Will Barber is chief of the Ellerbe Fire Department, and firefighters are constantly looking for structures on which to host live fire exercises like the one staged Saturday.

It was a natural fit. Meredith Barber said she and her family plan to rebuild on the lot — perhaps a bit further from the road — and once again call the land home.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com This is not a game face. This firefighter knows entering a burning structure is serious business.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
This is not a game face. This firefighter knows entering a burning structure is serious business.

As for the structure, it was almost like a playground — albeit one with rules and lessons learned — for the firefighter. Chief Charles Gardner said his department hadn’t had a two-story structure to train on for some 25 years. It was an opportunity he wasn’t about to let pass by.

Prior to setting the fire that took down the structure, veterans used a barrel to set a small fire and set the stage for a smoky atmosphere for younger firefighters. A two-man team would enter the structure from the back door, climb the stairs with the fire hose — navigating corners and railings throughout — and then simulate a “man down” situation. That’s when a second two-man team entered the building to rescue the first. The “victim” was half-carried, half-slid down the stairs and out the door. But his life would have been saved.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Ellerbe Fire Department Chief Will Barber, left, is with Rockingham firefighter Mike Meginnis. Meginnis is set to retire Monday after 30 years with the city.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Ellerbe Fire Department Capt. Matthew English, left, is with Rockingham firefighter Mike Meginnis. Meginnis is set to retire Monday after 30 years with the city.

Mike Meginnis can relate. Though it wasn’t his property, he’s seen an awful lot of lives disrupted during his 30 years of fire service with the city of Rockingham. On Monday, he’s set to begin retirement.

“It’s been a long journey,” Meginnis said, “good and bad.”

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Public safety

You might like:

GAP program fills a hole for ‘hands-on’ experience GAP program fills a hole for ‘hands-on’ experience
Sit back for an ‘interesting story’ Sit back for an ‘interesting story’
Cash available for crime-solving tips Cash available for crime-solving tips
Rotruck sues Town of Summerfield Rotruck sues Town of Summerfield
© 2020 The Pee Dee Post. All rights reserved. XHTML / CSS Valid.